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Jinxed

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Jinx hunts for huckleberries... in the woods

Trish had to have a story about huckleberries. Had to, for the first new issue of the River Journal’s new layout. Of course, that involves going into the mountains to actually look at their habitat and see if they were ready to pick and maybe even eat one or two or a bushel. So, I readily agreed to do the story.

Carolyn was my huckleberry source and Kathy likes to go to the mountains as much as I do. Aspen led us as our own version of Huckleberry Hound, so we had our huckleberry team ready to set out on its huckleberry quest.

We drove to a secret spot located on the mountainside, where Kathy and Carolyn readily spotted the bushes from the car. As for myself, huckleberries seemed to be elusive and I still haven’t mastered the art of huckleberry detection from the vehicle while driving. The huckleberries were not quite ready yet, still green and small on the stems. We got out of the car to investigate further, mostly just so Carolyn and Kathy could educate me on what a huckleberry actually looked like in its primitive state. We found a single bush, on a hiking path, sitting in the sunshine with its fruit in various stages of ripeness. Before I could reach down to sample the bush’s tasty fruit, my own Huckleberry Hound lunged in front of me to grab at the fruit herself. I growled at her and told her to find her own huckleberry bush!

Carolyn had the bright idea to take my picture by the bush, because I was doing this story and it would be “so cute” to have a picture of me with the huckleberries. I sat down behind the bush, while Carolyn tried to figure out how to work my camera. Unfortunately, the ant bed I sat in was not real thrilled about being squashed by my butt and retaliated by attacking me. I began to scream, trying frantically to get up without getting stung. Kathy was humming to herself, picking huckleberries like a hippy/gypsy girl. Carolyn was still trying to turn my camera on, ignoring me, while Aspen finished off my bush and turned her attention towards a nearby rock. I almost felt neglected and abused. No one even noticed my dilemma, almost coming out of my pants trying to ensure that no ant had hidden in any crevices that I might later regret.

We weren’t really that far up in the mountains, so after eating my fill of huckleberries, we loaded back up in the car intent on driving back to Clark Fork. I am going to interject at this time that I was not driving. Carolyn was. Which somehow doesn’t seem any better right now. Carolyn in the driver’s seat, Kathy in the middle of the back seat and I riding shotgun. It sounds perfectly innocent.

We went back to the trail head and that was when a grave error was made. We could have chosen to drive down the way we came, but I asked Carolyn where the other two roads went. Neither Kathy nor Carolyn knew; therefore we were obligated to find out.

The road we chose led to an enchanted forest, full of huge trees with tumors and what looked like beer bellies hanging off their trunks. The amount of downed trees was amazing and my frugal friend Kathy began counting them off, “firewood... more firewood,” she would excitedly call out. Since we didn’t have a chain saw, a truck, or a permit for cutting on state land, we ignored her eagerness and drove on into the forest. Meadows of bear grass and wild flowers held our attention with beautiful rock formations on one side of us. The other side was cliff. Kathy watched for firewood, Carolyn watched for flowers, Aspen watched for rocks and I watched Carolyn.

It was then I realized how huge my control issue is. I wasn’t driving and I couldn’t stop watching her drive. “Fallen tree alert,” I would whisper, just loud enough for her to hear me. Several times I got out to take pictures, looking back over my shoulder to make sure Carolyn wasn’t intent on using me for a speed bump.

Finally, after climbing high enough to reach the moon, we came to a fork in the road. Three roads again. Surely, I have at least one friend who travels the road more traveled instead of the road marked “beware of soft shoulders and fallen rocks and trees!” I clenched my butt cheeks as we set off down the skinny trail where obviously no man had gone in a long time.

The road was narrow to begin with and I am sure the dark lord of the enchanted forest was using a shrinking spell to further decrease the road’s width. Something was out there watching us, I just knew it. Aspen could smell it, Kathy was watching for it and Carolyn was laughing at it. Finally, we saw it. Kathy grabbed at Aspen’s collar so she wouldn’t scare it off and I turned my camera towards it. A female moose and her baby stood boldly in the road staring us down. I thought momentarily of getting out of the car, then I realized how precariously we were perched on the road and how badly it would hurt to have Bugsy beat me later because I know better.

Although we had started this journey during daylight hours, it was now dusk and I hadn’t the good sense to learn how to use the “night photo” on my camera; pictures were useless. Mama moose finally had enough of our “oohs and awws” and nudged her baby over the ledge into the darkness. Carolyn threw her car in gear and practically yelled in my ear, “Maybe we will see her on the road after the next switchback!” I looked at her as she took off, my fingers digging into the dashboard. “Excuse me!” I cried back at her, ”skinny, soft-shouldered road alert!”

I really tried not to use any foul language while griping at her to slow down, though it was pretty hard. We crossed a little wooden bridge and while I tried to take pictures of it, Carolyn and Kathy froze. I turned to see what the big deal was only to find myself staring at 500 bats circling the car. “Go!” is all I could barely screech out.

We came to another fork in the road and Kathy suddenly became animated, “Oh, I know where we are!” She pointed us in the right direction and off we drove. Wrong. We turned around at the dead end with Kathy grumbling, “Well, I don’t remember turning off the main road like this, something isn’t right.” Like we couldn’t all figure that out.

Finally, we reached civilization. “Is this a community?” I asked, ignorantly. Yeah it was a community, the community of Heron, Montana. Don’t know exactly how we got there, and I am not sure I could find that road in the daylight. I would say that the next time Trish wants me to do a story, I will make her go with me, but if the two of us went off in the mountains together, I am pretty sure Search and Rescue would have their hands full for a while!

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Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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